16 killed in Kolkata blaze

Kolkata, March 24: The devastating blaze that swept through three floors of a 150-year-old multi-storeyed building here has claimed at least 16 lives with fire brigade personnel recovering 10 charred bodies from the sixth floor of the ill-fate structure late on Tuesday night, officials said.

While six persons died either by jumping from the burning floors of the building, ‘Stephen Court’, or sustaining burns during the day, 10 charred bodies were found late tonight, fire brigade sources told.

“Firemen were conducting routine checks whether the fire has been totally doused when they first found four bodies lying on the sixth floor. Then, six more bodies were spotted on the same floor,” the sources said.

“It’s not possible to say whether they were male or female. They were charred beyond recognition,” they said.

Amid reports of a number of missing persons, the fire brigade personnel continued searching for more bodies, if any, using powerful torch lights as the entire building, located in the upmarket Park Street, has been plunged into darkness.

Of the 30 injured, 20 were admitted to SSKM Hospital, Sambhunath Pandit Hospital and Mercy Hospital, the sources said, adding five of them are in the ICU.

Firemen and locals rescued 40 people from the burning building, where 45 fire tenders fought for over eight hours and brought the flames under control.

Stating that the fire could have been caused by an electrical short circuit or bursting of a gas cylinder, Fire Services Minister Pratim Chatterjee announced a compensation of Rs one lakh for the families of each of the deceased.

Five of the 16 deceased were identified as Sourav Barik, Richa Krishnan, Pradip Chokhalia, Vivek Upadhyay and Bikash Agarwala, Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen told reporters.

Chatterjee said the fire was spotted in a lift in the fifth floor at 2.15 pm and spread to the sixth and seventh floors. It was brought under control at about 10.30 pm.

The building, parts of which were collapsed under the impact of the heat, was evacuated; he said adding permission from the Kolkata Municipal Corporation would be sought before the residents’ return to the building.

A 70-metre ladder, the world’s second tallest, was used to rescue the trapped persons, he said adding Kolkata Police’s mobile trauma unit and the Quick Response Team joined 300 firemen in the fire control battle.

Vishal Gathani, who came to visit a friend in the building, said he had seen a man and a woman jumping from the burning floors and some of the onlookers were filming it on their mobile phones.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the spot, criticised the state government for not seeking the help of the army.

Governor M K Narayanan also visited the spot.

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